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Qatar has announced the results of its first legislative elections, which means a limited broadening of political participation, while the host Gulf state is preparing to host the Fifa World Cup next year.
Opinion polls were held over the weekend for two-thirds of the Emirates’ 45-member consultative Shura council. The Interior Ministry said on Sunday that the turnout had reached 63.5 percent, adding: “These elections will strengthen the rule of law and the institutions of the country.”
None of the 28 women among 284 candidates were elected.
The council, which advises on state policy and approves the budget, consists of 30 elected representatives, with the rest appointed by the emir.
The polls were the latest in a series of reforms that sought to modernize the state and burn its worldview ahead of the World Cup. Other measures include legislation to improve much-criticized working conditions for laborers building the infrastructure for the tournament and a fight against official corruption.
The elections, which were only planned for 2013, were delayed when the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, took the throne after his father’s abdication.
Sheikh Tamim immediately had to contend with increasingly turbulent relations with powerful Gulf neighbors, who accused Qatar of supporting terrorism. The tension ran out in 2017 Saudi-led blockadee of the country, which ended earlier this year.
Dania Thafer, a professor at Georgetown University in the USA, describes the election winners as ‘men from a wide range of tribal / family representation’, including former government officials and business elites. “As usual in the [Gulf Co-operation Council]”Patriarchy wins the vote and women do not win deserved seats,” she said on Twitter. “It is important that quotas are introduced.”
Elham Fakhro, a visiting scholar at the University of Exeter in the UK, said poor election outcomes for female candidates are common in the region. In Kuwait, the most democratic of the Gulf states, where parliament is empowered to hold officials accountable, no women were elected during the last round of elections in 2020.
“This is surprising as it contradicts another trend we are seeing in the Gulf, a growing representation of women in public life, in government positions and in the private sector,” she said.
The emir could use his authority to appoint women to the advisory body, Fakhro said.
In addition to gender representation, the election campaign has exposed other gaps in Qatari society, most notably concerns about a dual citizenship system.
The July Qatari electoral law gave the “indigenous” Qataris the right to be elected and vote, but excluded “naturalized” citizens whose families were not in the country before 1930.
The move led to protests in August led by those without the law, including members of the large Al Murrah tribe, which has a history of strained relations with the state.
The government said there were a small number of arrests before the vote for ‘incitement to hate speech’ and ‘abuse of online behavior towards voters’, but insisted it encouraged ‘public debate’.